Irish journalist Martha Kearney will step down from BBC Radio 4’s Today programme after the UK general election, the broadcaster has announced.

Kearney, 66, will continue working for the radio station after then and front a new interview series called This Natural Life, where she will explore how nature has become a passion for the programme’s guest.

She will also begin presenting episodes of Open Country this spring.

She said: “I have loved working on Today with its incredible reach and influence, but now it’s time to move on to pastures new – literally.

“I am really looking forward to sharing my passion for nature in an exciting new series as well as a much-loved favourite programme. And I won’t be missing that 3am alarm call.

“I have been planning my move for a while now and the general election, which will be my eleventh, is the right point to move on.”

BBC director-general Tim Davie said: “Martha has been an outstanding Today presenter thanks to her hallmark incisive questioning, warmth and connection with the audience.

“She is an immensely respected and popular journalist, and I’d like to thank her on behalf of the BBC and her millions of listeners.

“I’m delighted Martha’s illustrious BBC career will continue on Radio 4 – giving listeners outstanding programming beyond the election.”

Martha Kearney (left) and fellow broadcaster Charlene White at a charity event in 2022
Martha Kearney (left) and fellow broadcaster Charlene White at a charity event in 2022 (James Manning/PA)

Director of speech and controller of BBC Radio 4 Mohit Bakaya called Kearney a “brilliant journalist and presenter who has navigated us through important news stories over the years”.

He said: “I am delighted that she is staying with Radio 4, bringing her considerable knowledge, passion and experience of the natural world to Open Country and our exciting new interview show, This Natural Life.”

Today editor Owenna Griffiths said: “It’s been my great privilege to be Martha’s editor both at The World at One and Today.

“She’s a journalist with great tenacity, insight and a wonderfully broad range of interests. Above all, she’s a warm and generous colleague who will be missed by me and the team.”

Before she began her time on the Today programme Kearney was the first female presenter on Radio 4’s The World At One, a programme exploring current affairs.

This followed seven years as Newsnight’s political editor and over the years she has interviewed prime ministers including Margaret Thatcher and Rishi Sunak and has covered several US elections.

The Dublin-born journalist began her career in radio as a phone in operator at LBC/IRN Radio in London before she eventually joined the BBC’s current affairs series On The Record in 1988.

She was a regular presenter of Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour from 1998 to 2007 and interviewed celebrities including Amy Winehouse, Hilary Mantel, Courtney Love and Jane Fonda.

She has also won multiple awards including the The Television and Radio Industries Club (Tric) awards radio presenter of the year.